Commentary: Promoting The Rights And Well-being Of Persons With Disabilities

Commentary: Promoting The Rights And Well-being Of Persons With Disabilities

The world population is currently over 7 billion people and more than one billion of them, or approximately 15 per cent live with some form of disability; 80 per cent live in developing countries. The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was, therefore, proclaimed in 1992 by United Nations General Assembly to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

The event, celebrated on December third, was to explore the opportunities and challenges to shape an inclusive future for persons with disabilities and explore key issues to improve the lives of people with disabilities through accessibility, education, decent work, innovation/technology, and sport.

However, while policy makers across the globe are brainstorming to find the best time to promote space for the effective participation of persons with disabilities, the community in Anambra are basking in the euphoria of the magnanimity of the state government in that direction.

Without prejudice, it is gratifying to note that in the past seven years and nine months, members of the disability community have been the greatest beneficiaries of the Governor Willie Obiano administration in Anambra state. Since 2014, Akpokuedike has done a lot for the Disability community in the state. This is to the extent that while the workers call him the alert governor, the community nicknamed Governor Obiano, OGUGUO NDI OLUSI. For the first time since the creation of Anambra state 30 years ago, Sir Willie established Office of the Governor on Disability Matters (OGDM).

Anambra, under Obiano, is also the first state in West Africa to appoint visually impaired and other persons with disability as Permanent Secretaries in Public service as well as employed several persons with Disabilities into the state’s civil service. Today, a person with disability is a member of the State Executive Council, which is the highest ruling organ of the state government. The governor appointed over five persons with Disabilities into his cabinet.

Anambra is the only state in the South East to enact the Anambra State Disabilities Rights Law, which provides for inclusion of persons with Disabilities in state policies and programs, among others.

Under Obiano, civil servants with Disabilities are promoted to their rightful service levels after years of neglect and stagnation. Akpokuedike has rewarded persons with disabilities who made outstanding achievements in different professional fields.

Sir Willie provided support for Disability Law Center for facilitation of access to justice and protection of Disability cum human rights of persons with Disabilities. He also facilitated Access Computer Technology center (ACT) and provided assistive and mobility equipment for productivity enhancements of persons with Disabilities as well as institution of free transportation in the state owned vehicles for persons with Disabilities.

Governor Obiano ensured recruitment of many sign language interpreters, more Deaf teachers, Braille instructors and computer instructors for persons with Disabilities. He established state Disability forum for dialogue between Government and Disability community with a view to providing assessment of and advice on Government policies and programs for persons with Disabilities.

In addition, Obiano created enabling environment that increases active participation of persons with disabilities in politics; increased awareness on equal access to electoral process for persons with disabilities. He also facilitated the formation of cooperative societies for entrepreneurs with disabilities; empowered persons with Disabilities with equipment and tools after acquisition of skills and trade.

The present Anambra state government appointed and promoted Judicial officers with Disabilities to the Bench; established rehabilitation centers at Aguleri, Oba and Nawfija. The government renovated and upgraded Special Education Center at Isulo; established rehabilitation center for the mentally challenged at Nteje in Oyi LGA, where Akpokuedike donated his salary for the upkeep of the inmates.

Anambra state government, apart from offering scholarships to all the students with disabilities at all levels of education, issued Executive Directive requiring all projects executed in the State, whether public or private, to be handicapped accessible and involved. The wife of the governor, Dr Eberechukwu Obiano, Osodieme, through her pet project, CAFÉ, provided artificial limbs to over 2000 physically challenged.

Therefore, while the global community is searching for ways to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities, those in Anambra are singing hosanna and thanking Oguguo Ndi Olusi. May God continue to shower Obiano with His abundant blessings, Amen.

WRITTEN BY CHUKS EZEWUZIE

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